November 18, 2021
UK | Review of the new Asset Holding Company regime
The United Kingdom (UK) Asset Holding Company (AHC) regime will be introduced from 1 April 2022 in order to provide a simplified basis of taxation for the holding companies of alternative investment funds (funds). This is part of a wider reform of the corporation tax regime for funds which aims to allow taxpayers to align their legal structures with the operational substance based commonly in London.
On 4 November 2021, the most recent draft of the proposed AHC legislation was released as part of Finance Bill 2021-22 with a series of welcome simplifications that reflect the feedback of taxpayers, industry groups, EY and other firms.
This Alert summarizes the aims of the regime and provides an overview of its key aspects, and the various benefits it offers.
Objective of the AHC regime
The aim of this regime is to encourage funds to co-locate their legal holding structures with their existing operational substance in the UK.
The AHC regime looks to achieve this by reforming the UK corporation tax regime for holding companies to remove historic areas of complexity and bring it into line with peer jurisdictions commonly used by the funds sector. With many funds having significant economic nexus in the UK, often in the form of highly skilled investment professionals, the UK Government is hoping to attract a higher proportion of funds to use UK holding companies as well as alleviating pressure to move UK-based roles to the location of current industry standard holding countries.
The new regime offers the funds sector the scope for efficiency gains in co-locating legal and operational substance in a single country, access to talent benefits and operational costs reduction. Developments in international tax treaty law means that the new regime may also de-risk post-tax returns in some investee countries/asset classes.
The AHC reform forms part of a broader review by the UK Treasury of the UK's taxation of the funds sector and reflects an ongoing appetite to simplify the tax compliance position for taxpayers including, for example:
Application of the AHC regime
The regime seeks to capture the vast majority of the funds sector and will specifically be relevant for private equity, infrastructure, credit and real estate assets held by alternative investment funds.
The rules will also apply to sovereign wealth funds, domestic and international pension schemes, UK and Overseas Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and/or long-term insurance funds.
The rules will take effect from 1 April 2022.
The regime is elective and a decision to enter into the regime will need to be made and documented by qualifying companies in order for it to be valid.
Benefits of participating in the regime
If a UK tax resident company meets the conditions to be a Qualifying AHC and has elected to be so, it will be able to benefit from a variety of tax exemptions and simplifications. Together, these provisions ensure there should be no incremental taxation on yield earned beyond the taxation in the investee territory and the final taxation borne by investors.
In particular, the following changes have been introduced:
All alongside an existing territorial tax system that features no dividend withholding tax under domestic law, a broad distribution exemption, the world's most comprehensive Double Tax Treaty network and one of the largest networks of bilateral investment treaties.
Outside of tax, the regime also allows for taxpayers to evaluate whether onshoring their holding activities may reduce operating costs and provide operational simplification given the existing operations that many already have in the UK and the availability of talent in London and the wider UK market.
Key takeaways for businesses to consider now
The introduction of the UK AHC regime is a welcome simplification to existing tax rules that will accelerate a trend that was already in motion to use UK holding company structures where possible.
EY has previously assisted with the first UK asset holding company migration projects in both the institutional and private equity fund sectors. Based on these experiences we suggest:
We believe that some funds will migrate existing holding platforms into the UK, some will continue to use non-UK platforms, and some will use the UK for new funds and/or new investments but leave existing funds/investments "as/is." In most cases it will be valuable to analyze the cost versus benefits of these broad approaches.
Appendix: Overview of the conditions to be met in order to access the regime
While the conditions to be met are detailed, a high-level summary is set out below. The contacts listed below can assist in understanding more of the detail.
A UK tax resident company is a Qualifying AHC if it meets the following criteria (and has elected into the regime):
In addition, the UK AHC must not be a UK REIT or listed or traded on a recognized stock exchange or similar.
For additional information with respect to this Alert, please contact the following:
Ernst & Young LLP (United Kingdom), International Tax and Transaction Services, Birmingham
Ernst & Young LLP (United Kingdom), International Tax and Transaction Services, London
Ernst & Young LLP (United States), UK Tax Desk, New York
Ernst & Young LLP (United States), FSO Tax Desk, New York
Ernst & Young LLP (United States), Transaction Tax Desk, New York